"I thought only old people did these kinds of things," quipped my 13-year-old son, as he began a series of movements after complaining of neck, upper back and shoulder pain.
I quickly reminded him that old or young, athlete or desk jockey, he needs to find ways to incorporate simple exercises, which help relieve muscle soreness and headaches.While still just a kid, my 11 and 13-year olds' lives are beginning to resemble that of most working adults.
While I wouldn't classify any of my three boys as couch potatoes, they are no less prone to muscle stiffness and soreness, especially in the neck, shoulders, and head.
Much like the grown-ups around them, whether they're walking, sitting or standing, their heads are almost always forward (think of a turtles head) and almost always titled down, typing or scrolling through content on their tablets, computers, or other hand-held devices. Honestly, it's a rare sighting to see anyone, young or old, walking down the street with their head up and eyes on the horizon.
A stress headache? Do this instead.
Whether you're reading this post sitting or standing, for every inch your head moves forward, the weight of your head (which weighs, on average, about 11 pounds) increases by a staggering 10 pounds.
As you can see in the picture of my client (orange shirt), my client's normal posture while standing features his head moved forward about 2 to 3 inches, from the midline of his shoulder (and what is considered neutral position).
This forward position translates to an extra 22 to 33 pounds of pressure on his neck and shoulders and upper back muscles. This is equal to the weight of an average watermelon, the kind sold in grocery stores. Yikes!!!
I get that not everyone likes to exercise. I understand that it's hard to get dinner made, let alone find time to take a walk or go to the gym. But doing nothing about the extra 33-pounds of pressure on your neck and shoulders isn't the answer.
Do the Chin Tuck -- As my client demonstrates above, place two fingers on your chin and push your head back. Repeat 10 to 20 times a day. You can easily do this in your car, while in traffic or at a light by using your headrest instead of your fingers on your chin (thus keeping both hands on the wheel or one on the stick shift) and simply move your head back into the headrest.
This movement will strengthen the back of the neck muscles, resulting in less neck and shoulder pain and relieve that whopping 20 to 30-pounds of a headache you have.
As you know, stress is a very real thing. It is a central issue in almost all physical and mental health issues (Embracing Eustress). It sends damaging cortisol to the brain, and we know that science has proven that stressful experiences will, over time, actually cause a neurological change in the brain. When this happens our frontal lobes, which control executive function, begin to disengage causing changes in our cognitive behavior. This is everything from how we think (or don't think), our moods, and is the source of many stress-related diseases.
Do the Shoulder Opener (Go Ahead: Put your hand on the wall) --
Stand 6 to 8 inches away from the wall. Extend one arm, straight up and then with shoulders and hips square, slowly reach arm back and down, in a semicircle. Pretend the wall is a clock and your hand starts at 12 and then goes down the clock, pausing at each hour — 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and then lastly 6 o'clock. Repeat each side, three or four times and do this a few times a day.
Tips: Don't let back arch and squeeze your butt. This movement will improve your range of motion in your shoulders and relieve tight chest muscles.
Try these and tell me what you think.
Remember, this is not a quick fix. You'll need to do these exercises daily (3 sets of 10 chin tucks and 2 sets of 5 shoulder openers) and also incorporate more ways to move your body and build strength.
Thank you for reading or listening. If you have questions, or comments, please do share.
In good health,
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